Open Mic Thread 11


The open mic thread is where you have the floor and can raise or discuss issues of your choice. There is no such thing as off-topic here. The comments of this thread are free for you to:

  • Discuss things that you have been reading/listening to/watching recently
  • Share interesting links
  • Share stimulating discussions in comment threads
  • Ask questions
  • Put forward a position for more general discussion
  • Tell us about yourself and your interests
  • Publicize your blog, book, conference, etc.
  • Draw our intention to worthy thinkers, charities, ministries, books, and events
  • Post reviews
  • Suggest topics for future posts
  • Use as a bulletin board
  • Etc.

Over to you!

Earlier open mic threads: 123456, 7, 8, 9, 10.

As I am taking a break from regular blogging, I won’t be commenting here. However, I will be reading any thoughts left below.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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50 Responses to Open Mic Thread 11

  1. whitefrozen says:

    Anyone watch that debate on Calvinism that was recently had?

  2. Alex says:

    Do you believe in penal atonement?

  3. Alex says:

    Does God make people fall in love?

    • Peter B says:

      Have you read C.S. Lewis’ “The Four Loves”? It’s a good starting point for considering what makes us feel bound to some people (in the many ways we usually call love). I find that given enough time, positive shared experience, and humour, I can easily ‘fall in love’ with a woman. There are some personality types that I enjoy more than others, true, but the rule seems to be that I develop affection given enough time. I find this to be the case for many other people also.

      That said, I doubt there’s a special intervention on God’s part to ‘cupidly’ make one person smitten by another. More generally, I don’t think there’s anything in our lives that is outside of the sovereign will of God (free though our wills may be). So with the way I understand your question (“does God specially fashion the romance that livens lovers?”), I’d answer no—not in a special way removed from Christ’s upholding the universe by the word of his power. But in that way, the way in which all things cohere in Christ, he most definitely does. That’s my shot at an answer, at least :).

  4. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Men are harassed more online than women. We just care more about it when it happens to women.

  5. Rebecca says:

    2questions for you re; recent communication.
    1) For those who believe priesthood is inherently masculine, what are your opinions regarding the Queen as titular head of Church of Englsnd? Does her jurisdiction include Anglicans worldwide in any way?
    2) Concerning Christians and used of contraception and assisted reproduction, when would be an optimal time in the life of a couple for this information to be shared? And who is the right person to communicate a distinctly Christian Protestant viewpoint? I myself wish my pre-marriage counselor had opened these questions .
    Thank you for sharing your positions and the painstaking care you take in forming points of view.

    • Rebecca says:

      Correction…used=uses. Sorry!

    • Thanks for the comment and the questions, Rebecca.

      1. The Queen’s role as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England is not one with which I have a problem, for my part, at least not with the way that the role is delineated within the Thirty-Nine Articles. The Queen’s role in relation to the Church of England is not one that applies to all Anglicans worldwide (or even in the UK), although a country like Canada, which retains the monarchy, accords her a similar title.

      It might be worth fleshing out my position a bit in response to your question, as it will tease out some important points. The objections that I have raised to women in the priesthood relate to the office of priesthood in particular (there were queens and prophetesses among God’s people). One of the main points underlying my position is the need for a primary symbolization of God’s authority in the Church. There is no corresponding need for such symbolization in the wider society, even though the same underlying logic pertains. Furthermore, whatever structural symbolization of national sovereignty still adheres to the monarchy, in the age of constitutional monarchy, it is extremely reduced from what it once was.

      Historically, however, kings and queen regents were typically perceived to bear different symbolic relations to the sovereignty of the nation. While society has historically had a more coherent sense of this, our consciousness is dulled to it, because it confounds our conceptual categories and bears a less immediate relation to our current modes of government (this doesn’t mean that it isn’t still operative in our understanding on other levels).

      Even where both kings and queen regents were permitted, the idea that gender would be a matter of irrelevance when it came to inheritance of the throne and to rule would be seen as a strange one. Traditional monarchy is a deeply symbolic role and men and women symbolize different modes of relation (this doesn’t necessarily mean that the male mode of symbolization will automatically be preferred). The preference for male regents is a very pronounced one in many societies, even where queen regents are allowed (Israel and Judah had forty-four regents between them and only one queen: Athaliah in the Omride dynasty, who slew the royal heirs and is widely regarded as a usurper). Like various other modern monarchies, the British monarchy has recently changed the rules of succession to one of absolute primogeniture, with no favouring of male heirs.

      In the British monarchy, we have had queen regents. These have historically ruled within a system of male-preference cognatic primogeniture, one that symbolized the sovereignty of the nation as masculine in character. The queens have ruled on the basis of their representation of a dynastic authority (one sees something similar to this logic in the presence of female prime ministers in political dynasties such as the Bhuttos and Nehru-Gandhis). In contexts where the dynastic authority has been under threat, this was a much trickier task, sometimes requiring radical adjustment of behaviour. Queen Elizabeth I is the interesting case here. In order in part to act as an effective symbol of the authority of the dynasty and the sovereignty of the nation in an uncertain period, she needed to cultivate the ‘myth’ of herself as the Virgin Queen, and avoid marriage and children, purposefully distancing herself from the typical pattern of women.

      The differing modes of symbolization between men and women don’t register so powerfully in our consciousness in public life today, in large part because authority is much more displaced in its character. This doesn’t mean that it has disappeared, though. Women who have a far more direct mode of leadership (e.g. Margaret Thatcher) are often particularly disliked as domineering matriarch figures, while their mode of leadership wouldn’t provoke the same reaction if it were exercised by a male. My suggestion is that this is more complex than mere irrational ‘sexism’. When a woman tries to exercise a very direct, ‘over against’ form of leadership, people’s hackles tend to rise. This is because, as she cannot symbolize such a mode of relation, it is perceived as overly authoritative—one reason why words such as ‘domineering’ and ‘bossy’ tend to be applied more readily to women. In such cases, the authority sought isn’t perceived to rest upon a symbolic aptness for that authority, but upon a sense of entitlement or the infantilization of those being addressed.

      The way in which women can represent authority without directly symbolizing it can really work in their favour sometimes. Sometimes ‘over against’ authority is exactly what isn’t needed and the fact that women typically displace that sort of authority in the mode of their symbolism downplays confrontational situations and makes them more effective than men in various situations, such as certain forms of group management. Women also symbolize different modes of authority, not least the moral authority of the community or of those who must be protected and empowered, modes of authority that can be exceedingly effective and important in particular situations.

      While the underlying logic of gendered symbolizing applies more broadly (because men and women never cease to be men and women and to symbolize in the distinct ways that they do), what Scripture does not provide us with is a more generalized principle forbidding women from exercising any sort of ‘leadership’ (vaguely construed) role over men. Some complementarian authors have sought just such a generalization from 1 Timothy 2:12, with rather problematic conclusions. They also seem very alert to the problem of women leading men, but far less alert to the issues with the much more widespread and problematic dynamics of men leading women not their wives and the ways in which a pseudo-marriage dynamic can be established in many workplaces (in fact, alertness to the problematic dynamics of the modern workplace more generally, as they impinge upon all of our lives and society more generally, would be very helpful).

      2. I would like to see pre-marriage counsellors addressing the issues of contraception and assisted reproduction too. At the very least, couples should be made aware of the moral questions and debate surrounding the decision, so that they can arrive at an informed Christian judgment. I also wonder whether it would help if basic sex education gave girls detailed training in how to track their cycles and all of the signs to look for. This might help to develop a stronger awareness of the natural fertility of their bodies. Against the background of such rich attentiveness to the natural patterns and reality of the body, I think that the moral questions associated with contraception would start to make more sense. I don’t believe that issues such as contraception can adequately be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion. Rather, we need to overhaul many of the ways that we think of sex, marriage, and our bodies more generally. It is only by such a reframing of our understanding that many of these things will start to come into clearer focus.

      I have yet to encounter a compelling and detailed Protestant account of contraception (if anyone knows of one, please direct me to it!). Admittedly, I haven’t looked especially hard for one. My suspicion is that we find ourselves in the position of having to articulate such an account ourselves, drawing upon the insights of other Christian traditions, while critically testing them against the core convictions of our own.

      I didn’t directly raise this point in the recent podcast discussion, but it should be brought in here: as Christians we need to be more alert to the social dynamics underlying things such as abortion or widespread use of contraception. We tend to work with an atomized picture, which treats these moral issues in isolation from their broader social context. Abortion and the widespread use of contraception have a lot to do with the fact that we have built a society which depends upon extensive use of contraception to operate and which uses abortion as an escape valve for its injustice. What we need to start asking ourselves is why the fertility and maternity of women is so socially marginalized and pressured and what we could do to turn this situation around. Rather than just putting the blame solely on women who use contraception or have abortions, let’s ask tough questions about our health care systems, our practice of marriage, the dignity that we accord to mothers and the social inclusion that we grant them in their maternity. We should ask questions about our workplaces, economies, further education systems, forms of local community, etc., all of which often make unreasonable demands of women, making it difficult for them to get married, have children, and still be included as full members of society.

      Thanks again for commenting.

      • Rebecca says:

        I really appreciate so much of this comment, the “over against” concept rings true to history.
        First time I saw a Protestant tract re: problematic reprduction tech and some kinda of birth control was in a Salvation Army lobby as I was there as a visiting musician. So thought provoking. Would love to see more sex ed in church settings too.
        Thank you for such a wide ranging, educational answer :).

  6. Peter B says:

    Something that’s puzzled me concerns the Anglican Communion, or the Church of England. What becomes of a parish that rejects the recent ruling in favour of women bishops? Is the hierarchy of that structure such that they have to leave, and get tangled in the legal battles over property much like has happened nearby with ‘The Falls Church Anglican’?

    Also, as an outsider to Anglicanism, can anyone either explain or point me to the reason for episcopacy? Why hasn’t it ended with deacons and elders…full stop? I know Hooker defended both it and presbyterian polity, but I’ve never read him and wouldn’t know where to begin lol. Any takers?

  7. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    “The body is but a shell.”

    Interesting catch by Steve Sailer.

  8. The Man Who Was . . . says:

    Why do progressive Christians so often hysterically overstate their case?

    For example, the current controversy over Fred Cass’ rant about Muslims. Cass is certainly calling for a sort of holy war against Muslims, but I can’t find anything genocidal in the piece in question. (Perhaps he goes farther elsewhere, but progressive bloggers haven’t pointed to anything else of the sort. I haven’t read anything else by Cass myself.)

    Cass is very wrong here, both morally and prudentially, but the progressive bloggers are being ridiculous here.

    • The Man Who Was . . . says:

      The worst that can be said is that the article does not specify what the end goal of a Christian holy war against Muslims might be. That’s certainly dangerous (on top of the dangerousness of promoting holy war in the first place). But then its a really stupid, ill thought out, badly expressed article, and one should be wary of reading specific intentions into something like that.

      The warmongering here is vile enough, people.

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